No backyard? No problem! Farming is not a job that should be only done in a wide open space – it can also be successful even you’re confined to a home or apartment! The taste of fresh and locally-grown fruits and vegetables is incomparable to those you can buy from the market. If you dream of having home-grown produce is easily within reach. Here’s a guide to help you start urban farming in your home.
Things to Consider
Before you start your urban farming journey, you must consider if you have a space and considerable conditions to make growing your own crops possible. These are the major factors you must consider:
The first thing you need to consider is finding a perfect location for your mini farm. Your balcony or patio is the most common option for people in urban residences, as it has plenty of sunlight and air. It also helps keep the soil away from your indoors. If you live on the lower level, you may have a front or backyard space where you can start farming. Even your outdoor walls will be sufficient in making a little farm of your own through vertical gardening.
2. Climate condition
It is essential for plants to receive sufficient sunlight. Generally, plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Some balconies in apartments may not receive this amount of sun. Other apartments, buildings across the block or roofs above your level can block sun rays, which can make farming challenging. It’s important to assess the amount of sunlight you receive in your apartment for a couple of days before trying to plant anything, and understand the pattern of sunlight in your potential location.
3. Crops to grow
Once you have assessed how much sunlight your space receives, you can evaluate what crops that can thrive in that condition. There are plants that thrive in sunlight, while some love shade.
Also, prefer to grow crops that you and your family consumes. It would double your satisfaction, as you can see your own crops growing while you can also consume it after. If your purpose is to sell crops, consider a crop that will yield high income and study first the market value of crops that are grown in apartments.
To give you an idea, here are some of the edibles that you can grow on a small space like urban residences:
- Winter squash
- Salad greens
- Kitchen herbs
- Green beans
- Garlic greens
- Jalapeno peppers
Methods of Urban Farming
Because of your limited space, farming methods available for you will be limited. However, you can still employ some awesome options in your setting, such as:
1. Vertical gardening
The better way to utilize your limited space is to grow upwards by vertical gardening. It is also known as green wall, which can help lower the temperature in the building you’re living in. You can start vertical farming in the balcony, the outdoor walls of the building or even in the indoor areas of the apartment. You can even have a mini vertical garden of herbs in your kitchen countertop!
There are a lot of options for vertical gardening – you only need to be creative. You can do trellis gardening or recycle pallet as a planter. Search online and you will see a plethora of different DIY options invented by creative gardeners out there. The plus side of vertical gardening is it can serve as a great decoration for your space as well.
2. Pot or container gardening
Container gardening is a common way of growing plants and is extensively used in the urban farming community. Usually, pots are used in gardening, but some other containers or planters can also be used. Upcycling is also common in using this gardening method, enabling you to reuse other materials as plant containers. Some interesting containers like plastic bottles, steel pasta strainers and reclaimed vintage boxes can be used.
One great advantage of container gardening is you can easily move your plants and can be customized to any type of balcony.
3. Square foot gardening
Square foot gardening is making use of raised beds to maximize space and accommodate more plants per square foot. It provides better drainage and reduces the need to weed, as it can give less space for these unwanted creatures to grow and makes them easier to uproot.
A raised bed is usually 18 to 24 inches deep, but if you’re building raised beds on top of existing soil, then you can one around 12 inches of depth. These are ideal for a terrace or balcony, or in a chunk of space in your front or back yard. During the spring, raised beds warm up faster than the ground, and you can tent your bed by the start of fall so you can extend your growing season by a few weeks.
Tips for Urban Farming
To manage a sustainable urban farm, here are some tips and techniques:
1. Use potting soil
Soil found in urban areas are most likely poor and unconducive to growing plants. It would be best for you to buy potting soil from gardening shops that to obtain soil directly from the ground. Potting soil is already packed with lighter materials, better-draining soil quality and is already sterilized to prevent weeds and plant diseases.
2. Use fertilizers
In case of fertilizers, going organic is the most sustainable way to go. Many organic urban gardeners avoid it to keep the ecology of their soil in the most fertile conditions. It would also be great to choose slow-release fertilizers in pellet form. Since you’ll mostly be dealing with plants in containers, regular fertilizers tend to be washed right out of the soil as you water them. Fertilizers in pellet form will release the fertilizer slowly and will last for several months.
3. Pick only the right plants for your area
The right plants for your area are those that can adapt fully well to the climate situations in your apartment or residence. Plants that are native to your area are the best candidates, since they have already evolved to adapt to the conditions of your area. Trying to adapt plants that require conditions that your area can’t provide will be very hard to grow. In case of native plants, they are hardy and can grow abundantly, and are also able to withstand local weather and resist most pests and diseases.
4. Grow plants in containers
This might have been an obvious tip since the methods of urban farming have been discussed, but containers really are your solution to make farming possible to even the smallest balcony, porch or patio. Just to note, plastic pots are better for urban gardening than clay pots, since plants will less likely dry out in them, since they aren’t porous like clay.
5. Give plants space
When picking out containers for your plants, pick those that are of just the right size to give your plant enough room to grow to its potential. Though you can find vegetable variants that don’t require as much space, some of them still needs a lot of soil, thus causing the need for a bigger container. When farming in raised beds, make sure you don’t plant them too close to each other or else they won’t grow as you expected.
6. Don’t over water your plants
Many people who garden or farm in urban areas tend to over-water their plants, thinking that the plants would need a “reserve” moisture because they live in a concrete world where it can get really hot. However, making the plant sit in water leads to root rot, which results to wilting. Yes, wilting isn’t only caused by drought – over watering can cause it too. So, if you’re not sure if the plant’s wilting is caused by too less or too much water, gently pull the plant up out of the pot or container. If the roots are brown and slimy, you need to water it less since it’s a symptom of rotting.
If you live in high-rise locations and you farm in your exposed balcony that gets a lot of sunlight, you just need to water your plants every day, but don’t overdo it.
7. Conserve water and harvest rain
In urban communities, clean water is a precious resource, since the areas are most probably not far from a natural water source. That means your water is pumped from the source into the city you’re living in and up the apartment where you live, making it more expensive compared to water in rural areas. This is why it’s important to save water, especially when you’re living in urban areas. One way to reduce your water use is to harvest rain water, store it and use it to water your plants, instead of using the water from your faucets.